London's a great city but no doubt, occasionally, you like to escape the crowds, get away from the traffic and just see somewhere new.
A trip out of town might mean heading down to the coast and roasting yourself on a beach; or going to a country pub and sitting in the garden while downing more beer than your belly, and possibly your brain, can handle. While such leisurely trips are all well and good, there are other experiences to be had – for example, have you ever thought about becoming a WWOOFer?
Fear not, WWOOFing does not involve dog impersonations, nor has it anything to do with state-of-the-art hi-fi speakers. WWOOFing is about organic farming; it's about eco-living; and it's about meeting new people and having an enjoyable time.
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and was started by a Londoner - evidently wanting a brief escape from the capital - back in 1971.
In exchange for offering your services on a farm as a volunteer, the host provides food, accommodation and information about eco-living. Tasks generally last around five or six hours a day, and while you need not have prior experience, hosts appreciate commitment and a willingness to learn. You can stay for a few days or much longer – you just need to arrange the details with the host of the particular farm you intend to stay at.
WWOOFing provides a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with nature, and even gain new skills. You'll learn about organic and biodynamic farming, and see how local food production and community spirit can combine to result in meaningful experiences.
An annual membership fee of £20 (or £30 if you join as a pair, though in that case you'll have to WWOOF together) gives you access to the WWOOF host directory, listing all the places in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where you can WWOOF.
You can preview the hosts here, though you'll have to join for the comprehensive directory. A quick look at the preview list introduces some interesting places - for example, there's a 50 acre farm near Cheddar that grows organic vegetables, and also keeps hens and bees; a place in the Lake District with an apple, pear and damson orchard, which is keen for help with various tasks including drystone walling, green building projects and maintaining the vegetable plot; a croft in the Scottish Highlands with an organic vegetable garden; and a 100-acre farm in west Wales that engages in all manner of tasks, including hedgelaying, woodland improvement and building renovation.
You have to be 18 or over to WWOOF, and of reasonable fitness – though there are some farms that offer less physically demanding tasks. Check the directory for more information.
A weekend WWOOFing is bound to open up your eyes to a whole new way of life, and you never know, you might enjoy it so much that you end up WWOOFing your away around the entire country – or even world.